Monthly breast self-exams (BSE) can help you know how your breasts normally feel and look, so you can notice any changes. Most breast changes or lumps are not cancerous, but only a health care provider can tell you for sure. BSE is recommended to be performed at the same time every month, a few days after your period ends.
You are looking for a lump or change that stands out as different from the rest of your breast tissue. If you find a lump or other change in your breast, examine the other breast. If both breasts feel the same, the lumpiness is probably normal. As you get to know your breasts better by doing breast self-exams, you should be able to tell the difference between your normal lumpiness and a possible change.
If you experience any of these changes, you should see your health care provider right away.
Screening mammography is an exam for women who have no symptoms of breast cancer. Diagnostic mammography may include additional views of the breast and is used when an abnormality is found during screening or in women who have breast complaints, such as a breast mass, nipple discharge, breast pain or skin irritation. A diagnostic mammogram requires a physician order.
A mammogram takes approxiamtely 15 minutes and can be scheduled by you or your physician. During the mammogram, two to four pictures of each breast may be taken. Compression is necessary to spread the tissue to allow better detection at the lowest radiation dosage.
Breast compression may cause slight discomfort for a brief time during each x-ray, but it should not be painful. To lessen this discomfort, you should abstain from caffeine intake for two weeks prior to your appointment. The Mammo pad is a foam pad which may lessen your discomfort. Just ask the technologist at the time of your mammogram.
Before scheduling a mammogram, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that you discuss any new findings or problems in your breasts with your doctor. In addition, inform your doctor of any prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer.
Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. The best time for a mammogram is one week following your period. Always inform your doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant
The ACS also recommends you:
If you are confused about the recent mammogram guidelines announced by the U.S. Preventative Task Force, you are not alone. The recommendation for women in their 40s to forgo mammograms and women aged 50 to 74 get mammograms every other year rather than once a year has been met with harsh criticism from other medical experts.
At the Breast Diagnostic Center, we believe this announcement is no cause for concern and you should continue to be empowered and proactive about leading a healthy life.
Early detection, along with annual mammograms, has helped to identify 25 newly diagnosed breast-cancer patients under 50 in the last year at the Breast Diagnostic Center. For this reason, the physicians at FWRadiology and Breast Diagnostic Center continue to support and recommend the guidelines promoted by the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that annual mammograms for women should begin at age 40.
Mammograms should continue to be an important tool in saving lives of women.